The Yes campaign doesn’t require media approval – it’s doing just fine


  By G.A.Ponsonby
The campaign for an independent Scotland is faltering.  Nationalists are frustrated at the failure of Blair Jenkins’ team at Yes Scotland to counter the effectiveness of its anti-independence rival Better Together as No stretches its lead at the polls.
It’s a familiar narrative and one that has been carefully cultivated by Scotland’s ever reliable media.

It’s also nonsense and with a year to go things are looking pretty healthy for those hoping for a Yes vote in 2014.

A plethora of recent polls have highlighted the risks involved in shaping a campaign based around what your opponents claim and what newspaper headlines say.

Two weeks ago the headlines claimed the campaign for independence had all but died.  Thirty points behind the pro-Union campaign, Yes Scotland was dead in the water.  One day later a miracle had happened.  Lazarus-like, Panelbase revealed the pro-independence campaign had somehow come back to life and had turned a thirty point deficit into a one point lead.

By the Wednesday the headlines were again claiming the Yes campaign was in turmoil, an all-time low of 25 per cent was evidence that the game was indeed over.

The thirty point lead was of course courtesy of YouGov, the polling firm that has yet to come to grips with Scotland’s habit of voting two different ways depending on whether it is a Westminster election or a Holyrood one.  The other ‘Yes Still Dead’ poll was conducted by TNS and was so badly conducted that Professor John Curtice, no friend of the Yes camp, felt compelled to highlight its flaws.

The truth is, despite what the pro-Union lobby that control news in Scotland would have you believe, the gap between Yes and No is probably no more than ten points and will shift dramatically in the final weeks of the campaign.

The pro-Union media-machine in Scotland has tried the ‘game over’ tactic before in an attempt at thwarting support for Scottish independence.  Few will recall that in the final week of the 2007 Holyrood campaign the Herald newspaper published two polls purporting to show Labour with a ten point lead.

In 2011 the media were at it again with a string of surveys all apparently showing that Scottish Labour was on course to take back power at Holyrood.  In every TV and Radio discussion, the message was reinforced that the SNP had no chance.

The SNP won in 2007 and again in 2011.

Newspapers in Scotland, as recently admitted by Alan Rennie of the Daily Record in a recent BBC Radio programme, are anti-independence.

This was reinforced last Thursday when Good Morning Scotland ran their free daily newspaper adverts, euphemistically known as the headline review.

Incredible isn’t it, a non-stop stream of anti-SNP headlines from an impartial state broadcaster – propaganda and free publicity all at once.  This is exactly what will continue as we enter one year until the referendum and why the grass roots campaign being run by Yes Scotland is crucial.

Thus, Yes Scotland is doing exactly what it should be doing, circumventing their media opponents and concentrating on events aimed at getting their message onto the street.  Play to your strengths is the motto.

Unionists own the media in Scotland, everyone knows it and a virtual firewall has been erected that ensures the latest No campaign scares are readily headlined but rarely if ever properly scrutinised.

Take a look at the last few days and the false land deal claims from Johann Lamont, the Bedroom Tax pledge that never was by Jackie Baillie and the latest misrepresentation of a leading charity from the brazen fantasist that is Anas Sarwar.

Sarwar’s behaviour on TV has been almost sociopathic at times.  Aggressively hectoring and interrupting Nicola Sturgeon as he refused to abide by rules of an STV debate and displaying a wanton disregard for the truth two days ago.  He appears to invent things on the hoof and is allowed to say whatever he wants with apparent impunity.

The truth is that the No campaign is not Better Together at all, it is the traditional media who promote every scare and false claim as well as every report by the CPPR, OBR, CBI, The Scotland Institute or whichever body is making the latest negative claim about independence. 

The latest to catch the eye of the BBC is the National Institute for Economic and Social Research who, yep, cast doubt on the Scottish government plan to keep the pound.  Yesterday evening it was the top political story in Scotland according to the BBC.

Yes Scotland cannot rely on the traditional media, print or broadcast, in Scotland, nor should they listen to this corrupt body for commentary on how the campaign is progressing.  There are far too many vested interests in Scotland’s media to allow Yes Scotland to be perceived as a success.

Last month’s smear attack on Blair Jenkins over the Elliot Bulmer article was evidence that Yes Scotland’s strength – its honesty and vision – is feared.  The Unionist dominated media knows that it has been circumvented and has now started attacking the campaign group itself rather than the independence arguments.

This was to be expected.  In any conflict then the logistical supply line of your opponent is a key target area.

Yes Scotland stalls and campaigners are highly visible, it has an army of foot soldiers taking its message direct to the people.  If you can persuade ordinary Scots that this organisation is somehow tainted or dishonest then you diminish its ability to recruit the key group of voters – the Don’t Knows.

It’s why the BBC was critical to the two most recent smear attacks – namely the attacks on Labour for Independence and the attack on Jenkins.  High profile news coverage accompanied the smears.

Just as the internet and feet on the ground is the logistical supply line for Yes Scotland, so too is the BBC and the traditional newspapers the means of delivery for Unionists.

Key figures in the independence movement are all too aware that they face an uphill battle as they strive to get their message across.

The BBC recently announced it had appointed the former editor of the Independent on Sunday, John Mullin, to lead its coverage of the Scottish independence referendum.  Whilst most will hope that this sees a change in behaviour at BBC Scotland, the truth is that the Yes campaign must assume that the BBC will continue in the same vein as now.

Progress is being made in an effort at getting the pro-independence message out, not least due to the selfless determination of thousands of ordinary Scots whose dedication will not diminish as we move closer to September 2014.

The key players are of course these foot-soldiers who do the hard slog.  But media progress is also being made by websites such as this and the ever improving Wings over Scotland whose proprietor Stuart Campbell continues to draw attention to the hypocrisy and inherent corruption that lies behind much of the media in Scotland.

Where WoS has focussed more on the newspapers,with striking success, Newsnet Scotland has continued to highlight the institutionalised corruption that is endemic within BBC Scotland political news department.

Newsnet Scotland has a mere fraction of the influence of the BBC and other media, but with over 100,000 unique visitors each and every month (average 104,000 for last six months) our influence is not insignificant.

The internet is not our only hope though.  The team behind Newsnet Scotland recently discussed the possibility of a hard copy newspaper to be launched in early 2014.  The provisional idea is for a pilot newspaper to be printed and distributed and repeated monthly if successful.

This is an ambitious plan and will need considerable investment as well as planning, if it is to be realised.  If, and only if, we believe we can pull this off then a dedicated crowd-funding appeal will be launched.

We need to ensure our own brand of citizen journalism reaches as many people as possible in the run-up to September 18th 2014.

There will be no great debate from our traditional media.

Last night a Newsnight Scotland discussion in front of an audience of undecided voters was chaired by Kirtsy Wark and it was awful, truly awful.  Some of the so-called pro-Union arguments were imbecilic and Pat Kane did his best not to laugh at some of the points he was forced to address.

It resulted in a ‘win’ for the Yes side of the debate – 30 versus 18 – which was a minor miracle given the grilling they took from Wark.

Tonight [Wednesday] on the BBC we will see yet another of their stage managed ‘debates’ which will follow the same format as previous discussions.  A hand-picked studio audience of 250 will make wildly partisan points dressed up as questions and partisan supporters of each side will clap and cheer equally wildly.

The format won’t allow reasoned discussion and will dredge up the usual scare stories which will dominate.  RBS will probably feature and the bank bailout myths will be trotted out once again.  Not mentioned will be the facts, revealed by Newsnet Scotland over two years ago, that blow this Unionist scare out of the water

The programme will be hosted by Glenn Campbell, the man who once ripped up the SNP manifesto live on air.

The media, including the BBC, have nailed their colours to the mast.  We have a year of this to go.  The upside is that the pro-independence movement now know exactly what to expect from the Unionist establishment and will be planning accordingly.

I’ll end this article on a controversial suggestion:

The BBC’s own head has admitted the corporation will struggle to maintain its impartiality.  The truth is, as anyone who watches the BBC is concerned, is that there is no impartiality and until there is radical change in Scotland that’s the way it will remain.

I think the time may be at hand where people have to decide whether to continue paying their licence fee to a broadcaster clearly unable to handle the referendum issue or whether they use their own money in order to fund the body they feel best represents their views.


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